This weekend, the New York Wine and Food Festival hit NYC and it was a juggernaut of food, drinks, and general gluttony.
Of course, I had to partake in a few events. Gluttony should be my middle name.
The first event that I attended was Jewish Food and Wine pairing with the team from Kutsher’s and Josh Wesson.
Lesson #1: If you come across Josh Wesson in the future, hug him. Kiss him. Buy him a house. At the very least, take one of his classes or wine seminars. He is, hands down, the best, most knowledgeable most down to earth, most interesting wine person I have ever had the pleasure of learning from. He made the hour class simply fly by, was gracious with criticism, and modest with praise. He loves to eat, loves to drink, and clearly loves his job. If It sounds like I have a crush, I do.
Marry me, Josh Wesson.
Lesson #2: If you go to a seminar on Jewish food, the average age in the room will be 107. The other people will vacillate between overenthusiastic and caustically disapproving of the food. And there will be many jokes about who has the best looking grandson.
The event paired wines that Wesson chose with food from Kutsher’s, an upscale Jewish home cooking restaurant in Tribeca. How could Jewish food be upscale? And how could it pair with anything except Manischevitz? Prepare to have your mind blown…
Chopped Liver on Brioche and Sweet Smoked Salmon with Horseradish Cream Cheese
These bites were the first two of the day, and the best of the day. The chopped liver, made with liver soaked in milk then gently pureed with eggs, onions, and topped with crispy chicken fat (gribenes). The liver is very mild and sweet, creamy against the crisp skin and the crunchy brioche croutons. Paired with a nutty Sherry, this is a satisfying little bite. The salmon was at least as good, if not better. Kutsher’s wants this to be reminiscent of bacon, and it really is! Sweet, salty, and smoky, it pairs soft, fatty salmon with enough spices to quell its overtly fishy flavor. The fresh horseradish cream cut right through the fat and spice, and the result is something both decadent and upscale. Served with a none-too-sweet moscato, the delicate bubbles provide another respite from the luxuriously fat of the salmon.
You either love this stuff or you hate it. I love it. It is salty, tangy, and really tastes “of the sea.” The herring here comes from overseas, then is cured in house with sugar and salt, giving it a milder, sweeter taste than some. It is tender, served with tangy pickled onions and a dash of creme fraiche to cut through the fish’s strong taste. The effervescent vino verde served here was bright and light, picking up on the tangy notes of the bite.
Duck Pastrami with House Made Mustard and Rye Bread
Don’t look for the traditionally garlicky, peppery pastrami here. Look for a more herbal, coriander infused pastrami here. Lightly gamy and very tender, with a melting layer of fat. The rye bread, coarse and sour, cradles some of the best mustard I have had in recent memory. Spicy, sour, and extremely fragrant. It was delightful – a must have. Pastrami was originally a way to preserve poultry, and this showcases how well the smoky, hearty flavor of the duck works with the overtly flavorful pastrami spices.
The last bite was flanken, or Jewish short Rrbs. Sweet and spicy, like Jewish BBQ, it was served on a creamy square of polenta. The red wine served with it just proves that I do, indeed, hate red wine. It also proved that the flanken is so tender and crave-worthy that even the red wine couldn’t diminish my love of the dish.
This meal was fantastic. It proved that a light, sparkling moscato works well with my favorite lox and that a slightly more acidic white wine works well with stronger fish. It showed me that I don’t like red wine, but I love how well sherry pairs with rich organ meats. It showed me how Jewish food doesn’t have to be the same old salty pot roast I have eaten at so many Passover dinners.
It showed me how excited I am to see my culture evolving in this delicious way.
And, of course, it introduced me to Josh Wesson, my ultimate crush.